Jonah Goldberg on the “Heart of Liberalism”

If you haven’t read Liberal Fascism, I’d highly recommend it. It’s not real fire breathing stuff, but is rather an in-depth exploration of the intellectual roots of modern liberalism. In this article he mentions something on the same topic, in regards to guns:

Consider gun rights. Yes, conservatives believe in second amendment rights because they are in the Constitution. But they also value a culture of self-sufficiency, self-defense and a traditional understanding of individual sovereignty. (Relatedly, I think it’s fair to say that hunting culture is inherently conservative and, very broadly speaking, anathema to much of liberal culture). Liberals dislike gun rights, because they detest gun culture (their Constitutional arguments in this regard have always struck me as nearest-weapon-to-hand debating points and rationalizations given their general disdain for Constitutional literalism in nearly every other regard) and see gun violence as a kind of public health issue, which means the State should have an unlimited license to deal with it. The right of armed self-defense also offends the State’s monopoly on violence, and liberalism is a jealous guardian of State power.

One might wince at the two dimensional political spectrum, but this is quoted somewhat out of context. He goes on to explain why he thinks conservatism is more libertarian leaning than liberalism.

I appreciate well-thought-out philosophical political constructs, but I don’t think real people fall neatly into them in most cases. Most people either don’t put that much thought into their political philosophy, or have strongly held beliefs that move across the spectrum of liberal-conservative-libertarian-authoritarian. There are also many legitimate pragmatists out there, or people like me who value philosophical political constructs, but have a strong pragmatic streak as well.

7 thoughts on “Jonah Goldberg on the “Heart of Liberalism””

  1. I noticed this the other day when I decided to take a test to determine what I’d be in the AD&D Universe. According to the results, I’d be a “Neutral Good Wizard” (“Neutral”, in this case, meaning I’m divided between “Lawful” and “Chaotic”).

    The thing that drove me nuts about that test, though, was that I wanted to say things like “I respect authority, but only if the person earns it”, and “If I make an agreement with someone, I will keep my end of the bargain, and expect the other person to do so as well”, and so forth; to the extend that I disagreed with “Law”, it was that I disagreed with “Formal” Law.

    In thinking about this, I concluded that I’d be a “Lawful Chaotic” Good Wizard.

    Of course, in real life, I’m a Conservative Libertarian Pragmatic Anarcho-Capitalist Mathematician Pretending to be a Software Developer…so “Neutral Good Wizard” probably fits me better than I’m willing to admit…

    (In full disclosure, I’ve only played AD&D once, and in general am not all that endeared to 20d role-playing games…I much prefer the 2nd Edition Star Wars system, which my friends and I used extensively.)

    But in any case, I completely agree that the one- or even two-axis description of politics is completely flawed…

    1. “…endeared to 20d role-playing games…”

      IIRC it’s the d20 system.

      “But in any case, I completely agree that the one- or even two-axis description of politics is completely flawed…”

      The system I like is a single axis system: it’s a sliding scale with progressively more government control as you move further left, and progressively more individual sovereignty as you move further right.

      By that scale, it shows that modern-day “democrats” are FAR to the left of anything I consider reasonable, aren’t generally much better.

  2. Jonah is broad-brushing, but he captures the predominant flavors of arguments on both sides, at least among those who give at least some thought to political principles. Among the vast majority of voters (those that don’t think about political philosophy) most of this comes down to culture. Gun culture seems to be changing quite a bit. Not as many hunters; more suburban hobbyists; more women. This can be hard for some gun culture traditionalists, but it’s helping us win the pragmatic arguments. The more people who see guns for what they are, the better. Because the arguments offered by the left are pretty damned thin.

    1. It’s important to understand that self-defense is CRITICAL to the right to keep and bear arms. Without the right of self-defense, the RKBA crumbles. That’s the way it has happened around the world: First they came for self-defense, and then they came for the guns.

      Many of the new converts you term “suburban hobbyists” are those who have come to understand that they may actually need to act in self-defense, and have therefore sought out the most effective tool for the job. It’s important to understand that not only is the second-amendment community expanding, but it’s expanding in all the right ways.

  3. It is a shame that the word “liberalism” has been ruined by the modern liberalism/progressive movement in the U.S.

    If I have you scratching you head, then please read this link.

    Since classical liberals are more aligned with the republican liberty caucus, Ron Paul and the libertarian party.

    It is a shame that the words liberal and liberalism have been tainted by the progressive movement in the U.S. Since both words liberal and liberalism are rooted in the word liberty. Even more disappointing is that many in both democrat and republican parties do not grasp the concept of individual liberty and self-determination.

  4. Unfortunately I don’t think many people have thought much about their philosophy, political or otherwise. So many seem happy to just drift through life doing whatever they were taught at one point or another. How else would the logically devoid arguments against firearms, especially against cosmetic aspects, really get voted on? There are a good number of “followers” on the main “sides,” with a group in each that has reasoned through their philosophy. There is a “middle group” that agrees with neither side 100% of the time, regardless if they understand their own personal philosophy.

    There was a reason that most states required voters to also be landowners. For the record, I am not starting a slavery debate, just pointing out the benefit of having voters with “skin in the game.” It is harder to vote yourself “benefits” when you watch your earnings drop due to taxes.

  5. What Ed said. i stopped referring to the anti-gun crowd as “liberals” because they are 100% nothing of the sort.

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